Humanitarian aid for vulnerable people in Venezuela
Venezuela’s basic supply systems have partially collapsed as a result of the political crisis, hyperinflation and international embargoes. An estimated 10 to 12 million Venezuelans lack proper access to food (source: OCHA 2020) and 7 million people need humanitarian aid (source: UN 2019). Water-borne diseases are again on the rise and child and infant mortality has skyrocketed (Source: WHO 2019). In the circumstances, the population is particularly vulnerable to the corona pandemic. HEKS/EPER has therefore launched a multifaceted emergency aid programme to alleviate the plight of those most in need.
HEKS/EPER is providing emergency aid for some 18,700 people, including warm meals and toiletries for needy women and children as well as the elderly. To stem the spread of the coronavirus, hospitals are actively supporting disinfection campaigns while victims of the crisis are being supplied with toilet articles and food packages. In addition, with the financial support of Swiss Solidarity, HEKS/EPER is also assisting internal migrants living under precarious conditions at the border with Colombia and who are receiving next to no government aid.
Soup kitchens for the poorest in El Nula and in Caracas
Those coming every day to the soup kitchen at the Baptist Church parsonage in El Nula on the Colombian border are mostly grandparents, pregnant women as well as mothers and children who have been left behind and are often homeless. Thanks to such soup kitchens, these particularly vulnerable people are able to have at least one warm meal a day or to receive a monthly food package.
Paola Fernández and her three children (see photo right) are a typical example. They are from a small town in eastern Venezuela and, driven by hunger and the search for work, she together with her three children and husband walked 120 kilometres to the capital. There they soon realised that it was almost impossible to earn an income. The story of Paola Fernández and her family is also that of many people in Venezuela. They are in urgent need of support.
Elderly people on their own in El Nula
Many elderly people also live in El Nula with no support, left on their own after their families fled to Colombia. These elderly people also constitute an especially at-risk group in the midst of the ongoing covid-19 epidemic. The Baptist Church therefore offers them support in the form of nutritious meals and toiletries.
Covid-19 disinfection campaigns
In the capital city of Caracas, HEKS/EPER is also supporting a disinfection campaign. "Ojo ciudadano", a HEKS/EPER partner organisation, conducts hygiene activities at three public health centres where it regularly carries out deep-cleaning and disinfection. This is crucial to preventing as well as halting the spread of covid-19 at the centres. These activities are carried out in close cooperation with the Ministry of Health.
Food and hygiene products for vulnerable persons
Besides, thanks to the support of HEKS/EPER and its funding partner Medicor Foundation, people affected by poverty are receiving meals, food products and toiletries which Venezuela’s hyperinflation has rendered unaffordable (the price of a package of spaghetti or a toothbrush is currently about half of a month's wages). The HEKS/EPER emergency aid programme is reaching some 18,700 especially vulnerable people including children, pregnant women and the elderly.
Drinking water, hygiene and shelter for internal migrants
With the support of Swiss Solidarity, HEKS/EPER is providing emergency aid for Venezuelan migrants stranded in El Amparo (in the federal state of Apure), located on the border with Colombia. El Amparo is an informal settlement in the district of Paéz and is tolerated by the government. It was set up in October 2017 on the banks of the Arauca River at the Colombian border and lies in a flood-prone area. Some 500 internal migrants live there under the direst of circumstances. When they arrived in El Amparo in 2017, each family occupied a small plot of land along the Arauca River and this was tolerated by the local authorities at the time. Today they still live under extremely dire and precarious conditions in the huts they built themselves out of banana leaves, sticks and bits of plastic.
Yet people there refuse to be resettled elsewhere as their livelihoods depend on small-scale cross-border trading as well as fishing in the river. The HEKS/EPER project supports over 500 people who have settled in this area by providing better accommodation and implementing flood protection measures. Households are involved directly in the building of flood protection barriers. Those who help with the construction are paid a wage, which enables them to buy essential items for themselves.